We Are All Photographers

so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“Now with instagram, everyone thinks they’re a photographer.”

We’ve all heard it. Insta-shaming has been huge since pretty much the start of its popularity. But it’s not just Instagram that kicked off this hate speech. In school, the elitism surrounding photography was dumbfounding.

“You’re not a real photographer unless you develop your own film.”
“Digital cameras are for amatures.”
“Photoshop is cheating.”

Sure, we can all admit that we’re no Ansel Adams, but like any abuse, this kind of elitism only breeds more of the same. Limiting yourself to one medium in any creative field is a sad mistake, and refusing to use tools that exist to help you hone your craft is just negligent.

So why are we even hearing this stuff to begin with?

Here are some terms that were used in my photography classes in college.

Photography — An art form. Photography can be good or bad, strong or poor, high end or low end. To be good at photography, one must master basic design concepts in addition to lighting and equipment usage.
Snapshot — A photo that was taken without thought to composition and without the intention of creating a work of art. Best examples of this are photos taken of loved ones to preserve memories. The end result is generally a keepsake which holds meaning.

Maybe you’re thinking.. “Ahhh there’s the problem. Instagram is really just a place for Snapshots, right? We are all free to take photos and call them Snapshots, and then we will stop getting shamed, right?” Well, no.. once you start giving consideration to the composition or adding a filter, you are considering that photo’s aesthetic value in addition to it’s personal meaning. You ARE creating photography.

A father taking a photo of his family, who tries to create an interesting composition with the seating…

is a photographer.

A 14-year-old girl taking mobile photos of her food to post on Instagram…

…is a photographer.

Now it’s easy to look at Instagram and yell “Well.. they’re not very GOOD photographers.” And maybe it’s because you think they aren’t interesting compositions, the filters are too saturated, or the photographer tried an edgy angle that the subject matter didn’t agree with. But tell me…

what are these photos trying to be that they aren’t?

Unless you can answer that question, there’s nothing to critique. Most of the photos I see on Instagram look to me like they were taken either to commemorate an event, to communicate a message or to preserve a memory. For the most part, they are all great successes.

What’s there to dispute? Instagram’s message surely is NOT that their users can or should make tons of money doing photography by applying free filters to square photos. Almost the opposite, the focus is on the content only and allows even amateurs to create a work of ART from their memories.

Mastering an art form takes time and practice. In the past 10 years photography has advanced technologically so drastically that the mastery of the art has still not caught up. So we have a bunch of amazing new tools and no one who has yet mastered them.

So, guess what?

Now that the focus is on snapshots, new skills are needed to excel. It’s a new marketplace with new leaders, and that can scare people (particularly the old leaders), but it’s a huge opportunity for anyone even remotely interested in the field. Photography is something we are ALL a part of now.

If you own a camera or a modern cell-phone, you just might be a photographer.

If you feel yourself considering even a small amount the lighting, the composition, or the subject matter in front of your camera, congratulations, you’re a photographer. Thank you for pushing forward and furthering advancement in our wonderful field.

Don’t listen to anyone discouraging you from doing what you’re doing with photos. You’re walking your own path and in all likelihood you’ll end up blazing your own while elitists are still chasing Ansel Adams tail.

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